12/15/2013

c.2000 Dell Arte Minor Swing Gypsy-Jazz Guitar




This is another friend's instrument -- which until yesterday resided with Mr. Greg Ryan of They Might Be Gypsies fame. He's used the guitar live for the last several years and their current albums were all cut with this instrument. At any rate, I think the serial places it in the early 2000s and it was made in the US by luthier John Kinnard for the Dell'Arte brand. I'm also pretty sure it's a "Minor Swing" model, being a pretty-much point for point copy of a Selmer-Mac style gypsy-jazz "petite bouche" guitar (of the sort Mr. Django Reinhardt made famous). Unlike most of them, which were mahogany back and sides, this one is rosewood instead.

It's a nice-playing guit with that distinctive raucous gypsy-jazz tone which has a good chop/cut to it for band lead work especially up the treble side of the guitar. This one has the longer (26"+) scale length which puts good tension on the typically quite-light gypsy-jazz string sets (which are copper wound on the bass strings giving them a particular tonality).

Here's a clip of the guitar live:


This guitar has one of those "BigTone" gypsy pickups installed in the bridge which run between $265-300 on their own and makes sound reinforcement very, very easy.



When Greg bought this guitar (used, for around $1500 -- I'm pretty sure these ran about $2200 new), it came through in shipping with a bit of damage: the top was "crunched" at the top/side seam joint at the widest parts of the waist (see pics later) and some bracing was loose. The guitar was quickly fixed up (some by me, some by others) and then it became his constant companion.


Gold-plated Kluson-style tuners are used in lieu of vintage 3-on-a-plate Selmer types. They work nicely and even have ferrules installed on the interior of the headstock! Note the as-typical zero fret design.


Ebony board with pearl dots and bigger frets. Update: I've given this guitar a full fret level/dress and setup.


There's that lovely deco-style rosette.


Ebony bridge with glued-on "moustache" wings.


Don't ya love that classy engraved brass tailpiece?


The guitar is bound on the top and back with ivoroid-style binding.



The rosewood looks especially nice on this body shape.



The finish is all in good order save some "polishing" from pick/hand wear near the soundhole and a tiny bit of sticky residue (it can come completely off with small amounts of effort) near the endpin area from some velcro pads that I removed from the guitar -- they were used to hold some sort of mic or preamp gizmo when in-use.


There's no helping it -- these guitars emanate cool.



The walnut neck is right up my alley in terms of wood taste.





So here's repair #1 -- a tiny hairline crack above the soundhole that was cleated/drop filled a long time ago.


Here's crunch #1 -- treble side, all fixed up and over the kerfing, anyhow.


Here's crunch #2 -- bass side, also all fixed up and 90% over the kerfing (which = stable).


One of the braces was reglued by a different luthier's workshop and over time the (originally) more-domed top has come down maybe 1/32" or so to my eyes. The braces are all glued up as seen with my inspection mirror and wiggly tool (a violin soundpost setter) so this seems to me to be just mechanical wear and nothing to write home about.


The original, arched-top hard case comes with it. Nice!

If you're in the market for a professional-level Selmer-style guit on the cheap (and American-made at that), seriously look no further.

4 comments: